Take the blurry picture, from those moments come memories

When I think back on this season of motherhood, this season of my children’s childhood, I know I’m going to remember it like this.

Blurry. Unfiltered. Greasy Haired. Tired Eyed.

I could try to pose and pre-set, and maybe achieve a pretty feed, that thanks to technology will probably be there for me to look back at in a few years. But that wouldn’t match the memories that will be fighting to maintain real estate in my ever-filling brain.

My memories of that cheese crusted still-chubby-for-now cheek squished against mine in elated excitement to be taking a picture with Mama. My memories of that tiny arm reaching around my neck, sticky fingers tangling in my hair as the minuscule muscles flex, forcing my head up and my mouth to smile. Memories of a pure kind of joy that comes from being so unequivocally loved and adored by these little people that carry around such a big piece of my heart.

And why would I want to alter those memories? Why would I want to filter out the cheese and angle down the ferocity of the hug?

These are the little things that make this season of motherhood so messy- yes -but they are also the little things that make it so so special.

They are the things that make it memorable.

So, I’ll keep squishing the crusty cheeks and I’ll keep taking the blurry pictures.

I owe it to my future self to do my best to capture as much crust and joy as I can in both pictures and memories.

Because I know there will come a time, soon, when memories and pictures will be all I have left of this crusty, wonderful season.

Peace in the blurred lines between hope and heartache

Hope. Heartache. Healing.

The lines between these three are often faint and sometimes blurred. In my case, the line was a faint blue. At least on Monday. On Monday of last week, the line was faint and blue. An unexpected line that gave me butterflies of joy and anxiety all at once. A line that projected images of a growing belly for the 3rd time and questions of what kind of car we would need to buy. A line that suggested an addition to the family that would bring stress, yes, but so much joy. A line that thrust the current youngest to the middle child position in a second’s notice. A line that was filled with hope.

The line was faint though. So faint that my head told my heart to not let the love grow yet. So faint that I tried to not let any ripples disturb my dearly sought after, tranquil, inner lake of peace. A line faint enough that the ever-ready rational side of me stepped up to the plate and said – “Wait.” Wait a day or two before you teeter off the ledge and plunge headlong into hope. Because that line is faint and if you plunge into hope too fast, heartache may be the outcome. Just as it was when that faint line came and went the month before we became pregnant with our second child. And that heartache disrupts the calm. Heartache ushers forth not just ripples, but waves, to crack that glassy surface wide open, allowing the deep waters to spill forth in wet droplets that then leak down faces in messy trails. And to me, an Enneagram 9 who prides herself on being calm…collected…stable…unperturbed… at inner “peace” – these messy trails of emotion are to be avoided.

Ah, but the mind. The mind doesn’t always win out in these scenarios, does it? No, as much as I may like to think that my mind is in control of my pesky feelings, it does not always win out in these scenarios. Especially when it comes to thin blue lines that act as a tightrope between hope and what could be, heartache. No, my preverbal feet slipped off the tightrope and landed on the side of hope. All day Monday and all day Tuesday, I found myself planning for a third child. Planning with hope, the move of my two little girls into the same room so the new babe (probably a 3rd girl in my mind) would have a place to sleep. I found myself grinning in secret about the life I had started to believe was growing inside me. I found myself involuntarily thinking of our family as a family of five. I found myself hoping that when I took a second test on Wednesday, that faint line would be a dark blue line, confirming life.

But, that’s not how life always works, ya know? I got up Wednesday morning and that faint blue line that had been there Monday hadn’t gotten darker. It didn’t show up quicker like I expected it to. In fact, it didn’t show up at all. The line was gone. A clear white circle blinked up at me. And just like that, the hope had vanished. Gone were the concerns of fitting three car seats in the car. Gone were the internal bets of whether or not there would have been 3 blondy little girls in the family. Gone was the hope that in nine months, I’d have another baby to cuddle and rock. I hadn’t been planning on this unexpected hope to come on Monday, but it came anyway – and despite my desperate attempts at not letting it take root. It had. And so, when it was gone, my inner lake was disrupted a bit. Like a pebble had been dropped in the middle and tiny waves started to ripple outward, leaving me teetering in my own internal boat rocking back and forth on that lake of feelings.

I don’t know if the faint blue line 2 years ago or last week had been faulty tests (although a 5 day “lateness” both times would suggest otherwise), or chemical pregnancies, or real pregnancies that ended before they truly started – and I won’t know. But seeing those blue lines sparked hope and so the absence both times stung.

Because I’ve learned recently (through some therapy, through some reading of good books, through some intentional introspection, through some late night chats with good friends) that my tendency is to avoid – or stuff – these “negative emotions” to maintain the inner peace I value so much, I have been trying to at least give them a passing glance before sweeping them away with an easy smile, a shrug, and the words “I’m fine.” But it’s hard. It’s not comfortable – and admitting that this fine line caused a disturbance in my “peaceful” countenance is difficult for me. Which is why, when this same thing happened about 2 years ago, I told a few people in an off-hand way, but kept the sadness I felt down. Deep down. For the most part, I maintained my “peace.” Yesterday, I was listening to, “The Road Back to You” and heard some words that resonated deeply. He said, “what looks like peace, is just your desire to be unaffected by life.” Yikes.

My favorite Bible verse has always been, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” but how silly I’ve been in my understanding of Paul’s words to the Philippians. He wasn’t speaking about learning to be content when things are good and hopeful and joyful. He wasn’t talking about ignoring the not-so-pleasant aspects of life, or convincing himself that they did not bother him. He was saying that he’s learned to be content because he had experienced hope and heartache and had found the answer to true peace in God. Not the superficial peace of a calm, cool, collected demeanor, but “peace that passes all understanding” because God is with us. Peace that can be had in the midst of heartache and the midst of hope. Peace that is a tranquil state of a soul WHATEVER the circumstances. As a peace (little “p”) seeker and craver, this true Peace is what my soul needs.

It’s what your soul needs as you allow yourself to hope and inevitably, sometimes end up on the side of heartache.

I know Jesus, but I am far from living in this Peace daily. I cling to my little “p” peace when the inner waters get rocky, (and truly by God’s grace, I haven’t yet experienced the tsunami like waves many of you have in this life) instead of riding the waves while clinging to the One who is Peace himself in the midst of the storm. It’s hard and uncomfortable for me, but I’m trying – I’m practicing – by texting friends the words, “You know, I’m kind of sad about this” that Wednesday, and by writing this post for all the world to read, to let go and let those messy trails of emotions leak out. Because by allowing them to leak out, I am allowing myself to admit that I do not have the peace needed for this life. I do not have the strength on my own in this life, much as I’d like to think I do. I have nothing in this life if I don’t have Jesus.

So, as you walk the fine, faint lines between Hope and Heartache – remember – in the midst of those blurred lines can come Healing from the one who offers us Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Being #mama to my Girly Wild Child

When I found out I was pregnant with my first kid, I was TERRIFIED that we were going to have a girl. I have never been girly and was sure I wouldn’t know how to be a “girl mom.” I envisioned pink bows and glitter strewn about the house. I pictured prim lace and gracefully crossed legs. I dreaded day long tea parties and whining about dirt. I thought of princesses and unicorns and mourned neglected dinosaurs and trucks. The list went on. And because I had all these thoughts, I knew in my deepest heart that I was for sure going to end up with all girls. Ridiculous, I know. I logically understood that there was a 50/50 shot, but I knew I would have girls.

Sure enough, that gender revealing ultrasound confirmed my fears- we were having a little girl. Now, those fears almost instantly dissipated once we heard, “It’s a girl!” because let’s be real, I was already in love with that little girl. But I was still a bit apprehensive. I saw the #girlmom attached to all the sweet, pink posts and the #boymom attached to all the high energy, adventurous posts and wondered how I was going to make it. I told myself over and over that I would be ok- I knew how to braid hair and was prepared to let my little girl be whatever version of “girl” she wanted to be- even if that meant tea parties in princess dresses all day long.

That was 4 years ago. And I wish I could tell that pregnant mama that she had nothing to worry about. I wish I could tell her how incredibly cool her girls – yes, plural – would be. I wish I could tell her that in four years, she would look around her house and see pink bows on the counter and glittery sequences stuck to the floor that had fallen off of a cheap Ariel dress-up costume — and she would love it. I wish I could tell her that along with the pink bows, she sees helicopter toys in the toy box and dinosaur stuffed animals on the couch. I wish I could tell her that the 3.5 year old practically lives in princess dresses and tutus, but wears them while running full speed everywhere, daring the world to tell her to slow down. I wish I could tell her that tooting and burping and an obsession with the word “booty” were all in her future despite the lack of sons. I wish I could tell her that the words “calm” and “prim” would never be used in the same sentence as her first-born’s name. I wish I could tell her that the daycare teachers would comment on the mixture of leadership and empathy they saw in that ringlet-headed little girl. I wish I could tell her to hang on tight because that Mama had no idea what was coming in the form of that 9lb 11ozs of pure baby girl.

I think back to that time and chuckle at the stereotypes I was worried about, even though I didn’t fit them myself as a kid. I chuckle because many of them are half true in our household, and it is so much fun. I also chuckle because I can’t tell you how many times people tell me once they know I have two girls (3.5 and 1), “Aw, two girls! Girls are so much calmer and sweeter than boys.” Or even, “Girls are a lot easier than boys.” And maybe those assumptions would withstand a wide reaching, randomized research study, but it doesn’t hold true in our house. It doesn’t apply to my 110% energy filled, adventure seeking, dirt loving, snail collecting, sister hauling, FIESTY little girl.

I proudly wear the label #girlmom, but I know from experience what an all-encompassing title that really is. I smile when I see #girlmom on the tea party posts, because my little girl does love herself a tea party. But I also smile when I see the #boymom posts about finding toy cars in the dryer or bugs in pockets, because to me, that also falls under my #girlmom status. And I think that is so so cool. I think my precious girls are so so cool. And mostly, I think it is so so cool that God made them exactly unique, and exactly in His image.How fun that the Creator of all things thought to give me, tom-boy turned #girlmom, a blond, curly headed little girl who loves to wear her batman jacket with built in mask over her pink tutu on ballet day.

How fun that He knew I would be the best #girlmom to that boisterous little human who puts snails in the pockets of her dress then stands up and straightens the tiara perched upon her head.

Whenever I wonder if I’m up to the challenge of raising a “girly wild child,” I think about this and it gives me confidence and strength. Confidence to be the #girlmom that our Creator created me to be for these specifically unique little girls.

I hope it gives you confidence too, fellow Mama. Because whether you are a #girlmom, #boymom or #momofboth, your children just know you as #MAMA. And that is so so cool.

Composing a Childhood Soundtrack of Love

As I sit here drinking my late night decaf coffee, munching warm delivered cookies that I definitely sent to myself as a treat while my husband is out of town on a work trip- I’m listening to James Taylor playing softly through the house as my girls sleep.  I told Alexa to, “play James Taylor” and she obligingly replied, “shuffling James Taylor on Amazon Music” and has proceeded to play song after song of the calming music that has been somewhat of a soundtrack to my life.   

I sing along, with nostalgia and a conditioned feeling of safety and joy welling deep inside, to “Copperline”, chuckling to myself when I hear James say, “one time I saw my Daddy dancing, was a moving like a man in a trance,” because I’ve been told countless times that my daddy would twirl me around the room as a baby/toddler, no doubt in his infamously hilarious bodily movement that I guess we can call dancing, to Copperline. Holding me close and making me giggle with glee, earning my childhood nickname of “Chuckles cheeks.”   I hear the intro to “Down in a Hole,” and am transported back to the childhood days of top bunk slumbering when I got to pick the music my sister and I listened to at night to fall asleep, knowing it was song number 2 on my favorite CD, of which I was usually asleep by the end of song number 3 or 4.  I unconsciously freeze every time James’ soothing voice mentions the frozen man that, now that I think about it as an adult, is a bit creepy and terrifying- reminiscent of my sisters and I making exaggerated freezing movements in the back of our trusty minivan as we drove from San Diego to Denver biannually.  My heart swells and eyes tingle as I hear the promise my Dad and I danced to at my wedding that has since become the lullaby I’ve sang countless times to both my baby girls,

“Well the sun is surely sinking down, 
But the moon is slowly rising
So this old world must still be spinning 'round
And I still love you.”

These songs are ones that I put on CDs I’ve made throughout the years for roadtrips with college friends, the CD I made and listened to every single day for 6months of my first pregnancy just in case I really could influence my unborn baby’s taste in music (it didn’t work…there were no Moana songs or Veggie Tales on that CD and yet, what does she want to listen to over and over??), my wedding playlist, Pandora Station at work, and I’ve rotated between the songs when singing softly to my babes as I’ve rocked them countless hours.  If you are familiar with James Taylor’s music, you might be thinking of some of his lyrics wondering what exactly I am whispering to my children at night (I don’t sing the Traffic Jam song, don’t worry) but it’s not really about the lyrics (although I am definitely learning to appreciate his actual lyrics and meanings/stories behind them now).  

Every song, it seems, is paired with a memory or feeling of warmth that goes beyond James Taylor’s obvious talent as one of the best. I think I would be sitting here in the kitchen listening to Led Zeppelin songs while gobbling cookies if my Dad had played those songs on his guitar instead of “Fire and Rain” and “You’ve got a Friend” when I was a kid.  Or possibly Cyndi Lauper would have been my road trip companion had my mom popped her CD in while we drove to swimming lessons in the summer and library trips year-round.  Music has always worked like a real life Pensieve for me (and actually there is real science that links music to memory because the brain is so cool).   I hear a song and get sucked back to the feeling or place in time I heard it.  

James Taylor’s music reaches out its melodious chords and tenderly wraps them around my heart, floating me back along the melody to my childhood.  My childhood that was filled with security and fun and acceptance.  My childhood that was not just filled, but overflowing, with love. I know I am fortunate. I have always known how fortunate I am to have the parents I have, who gave me the childhood I had, and continue to be an ever-present source of support and love in adulthood. These types of parents are rare, and I know this.  And I think the reason I sit in my rocker and sing about a cowboy who, “thinks about women and glasses of beer” to, “rockaby my sweet baby May,” is because I want so bad to make sure my girls grow up and know by just hearing that first strum of a guitar, that they are oh.so.loved.

I hope and pray and work and strive to create a childhood filled with living room dance parties with my husband twirling one girl, and I the other; a childhood filled with 1000 “I love you”s a day; a childhood filled with tickle fights and lazy Saturdays exploring nature with each other; a childhood filled with car ride talks and adventures; a childhood filled with Bible Stories and Story Stories before bed; a childhood filled with learning to care for others; a childhood filled with messy, real playing; a childhood filled with the musical notes and cadences of a love so deep it cannot be forgotten no matter the years or miles.  A childhood that allows for my sweet little girls to mature into strong, confident young ladies in adulthood who sit at their kitchen table, listening to James Taylor, indulging in a treat and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that the lyrics they hear that calm voice singing,  

“You just call out my name
And, you know, wherever I am
I'll come running,”

might as well be coming out of their Dada and Mama’s mouths because they know they are so very much loved- now and for always.

A childhood that has been composed to the soundtrack of love.

You Can Close Your Eyes

Well
the sun is surely sinking down
But the moon is slowly rising
And this old world must still be spinning 'round
And I still love you
So
close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone
Well
it won't be long before another day
We're gonna have a good time
And no one's gonna take that time away
You can stay as long as you like
So
close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone
So
close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone
  • – James Taylor

Chalky Free Time

“What are you going to do with all your free time now??”

I’ve heard this question several times since graduating from grad school a couple weeks ago.  And it gives me pause. Coming out of a 3-year season where all our days and most of our nights were full of work, school and various other responsibilities- this has been my normal.  It was normal to leave the house at 7am and return at 9:55pm.  Normal to start homework or studying at 8:30pm after the girls went to bed.  Normal to realize David and I hadn’t been out by ourselves in at least a month. Normal to know that Saturday was the only day of family time we had, but it was also the only day we could run errands or try to be social.  Normal to blink and see that our newborn was 4 months old and our 3 year old could tie things. This was normal.  So now that I’ve graduated and no longer have night classes, or homework, or just the mental knowledge that there was something else I should/could be doing for school- there has been an adjustment to a “new normal.”

A new normal of going to the same job every day and coming straight home afterwards with time to play before dinner.  A new normal where Friday night movie nights do not end with me studying.  A new normal of being home for all bedtimes. A new normal of being able to write for fun on a Saturday morning while the baby naps and Dada and Brynn are out riding bikes with friends. A new normal of being able to hang out with our sweet sweet foster nieces and nephew and their incredible parents.  A new normal of prioritizing date night at least every other week.  So when people would ask during those first couple days/weeks what I’m going to do with “all my free time” there was a little voice inside saying, “should I be doing something else besides working full time and actually spending my evenings coloring the sidewalk with chalk and attempting to actually cook some dinners?”  Should I pick up a hobby? Should I enroll Brynn in a community dance class? Should I join a gym (ok, I probably should exercise)? Maybe I should volunteer more?  Should I start driving for Uber to make some extra money? People kept saying I had all this new free time so clearly I should be doing something more…right?

One day David said something to me out of blue along these lines, “Don’t feel like you need to rush into picking up something new now that you’ve graduated..” I forget the exact words, but I realized it was true. I needed to give myself permission to laugh when people asked me that good intentioned question and respond with, “oh you know…keep working full time and being a wife/mom.”  Give myself permission to enjoy this “new normal.”  To enjoy my kids being little. To enjoy laughing with David at the craziness that comes with parenthood.  To go to Costa Rica for a week with no kids purely because we can and we want to. To go see friends on a weeknight. For David to be able to go see friends on a weeknight. To build forts in the living room. To catch caterpillars and watch my girls’ faces light up with wonder when they pop out of their chrysalises as butterflies. To make silly houses of straws. To have dance parties DJ’d by a toddler-controlled Alexa after bath time. To cuddle with a Mama-infatuated baby, not to spoil her, but to cherish this time where she still wants to cuddle with Mama.

My parents were visiting a couple weeks ago and my Dad said, clad in his famous proud-dad face, “You should be proud of all you’ve accomplished these past few years, Kiley. It was hard and you did it.” And my mom said in her experienced Mom voice, “And now, you can experience being ‘just’ a working mom, instead of a working, going to school Mom. You really haven’t experienced that before.” And they both were so right. I have been taking inventory and reflecting on the past few years and dang it- I AM proud of what I did. What our little family did. I am very proud.  But I’m also so very glad that season is over.

And I am so very excited for this next season of Motherhood. 

So very excited for this season of creating memories dusted in sidewalk chalk and love.